Anyone who questions the importance of sport in human affairs should be made to sit in a darkened room and watch the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix over and over until they see sense.
It began with a moving tribute from the 20 drivers to their fallen colleague Jules Bianchi, the young French driver who last week lost his nine-month battle after his accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
It ended in victory for Ferrari, the team by which Bianchi was nurtured and for whom he would one day have raced at the pinnacle of the sport to which he gave his life.
Ferrari’s 223rd World Championship race win went to Sebastian Vettel, the four-time World Champion finding within himself the grace and intelligence to send a multi-lingual message from the cockpit.
“Thank you, boys,” the 28-year-old German said first in Italian to his new team. He switched to French to say, “This victory is for Jules: we know that sooner or later Jules would have been a part of this team.”
And on the podium, this time in English, Vettel added, “Incredible day! For all of us it was very difficult so this one is for him.”
Vettel laid the foundations of victory with a brilliant start and an aggressive move into Turn 1 that swept him past the Mercedes of both pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and into the lead.
His victory was threatened only by a Safety Car at two-thirds distance, triggered by a terrifying accident to Nico Hulkenberg when the German’s Force India lost its front wing at top speed near the end of the main straight.
Happily ‘The Hulk’ was unhurt, but the team’s decision to retire the other car driven by Sergio Perez reminded us once more that these men walk a fine line between triumph and disaster as they go about their work.
For almost the whole race Rosberg must have thought he would go into the month-long summer break in the lead in the title race.
Second place would have catapulted him past teammate Hamilton, who began the day 17 points ahead but had a ragged afternoon, culminating in a drive-through penalty for the Turn 1 collision which he triggered by understeering into the side of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull.
Ricciardo himself came to grief with just five laps to run, the Australian risking everything in a late-braking manoeuvre on Rosberg into Turn 1 that saw him hit the rear of the Mercedes and force the German driver into the pits with a right rear puncture.
“I knew we were quick enough to win,” said Ricciardo, “and I wanted to leave it all out there. I put my heart into everything, I think that’s the way Jules would have wanted it.”
Pitting for repairs, Ricciardo then launched a late burst of speed that earned him both third place and the fastest race lap.
Daniil Kvyat claimed his first podium in second place, overcoming early instructions to let Ricciardo through and an unresponsive car early in the race to make it a double podium for Red Bull.
“It’s for Jules and the family,” said the young Russian. “Today I discovered what it means never to give up.”
There were other heart-warming cameos: fourth and a best-ever result for Max Verstappen in only his 10th race with Toro Rosso… a surprise fifth place for the beleaguered McLaren Honda partnership, Fernando Alonso saying this was “a nice little present for the whole team”… Hamilton fighting back for sixth to actually increase his lead over eighth-placed Rosberg… and a touch of comedy as Pastor Maldonado incurred not one, not two but three penalties in one race for Lotus.
Hamilton has 202 points to Rosberg’s 181, but Vettel now looms as a factor on 160. Mercedes-Benz have 383 points, Ferrari 236 and Williams 151 as they enjoy time to reflect before round 11 in Belgium in four weeks’ time.